Kendra Erk


Dr. Kendra A. Erk

- B.S. Materials Science and Engineering with Highest Distinction, Purdue University, 2006
- Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, 2010

Mailing Address:
School of Materials Engineering
701 West Stadium Avenue
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045
Phone: (765) 494-4118
Email: erk @ purdue . edu

Employment History

  • 2018 - Present: Associate Professor, School of Materials Engineering, Purdue University
  • 2012 - 2018: Assistant Professor, School of Materials Engineering, Purdue University
  • 2011 - 2012: National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Polymers Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD
  • 2009-2011: Guest Research Associate, Polymers Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD

Overall Research Interests

Characterization of the mechanical properties and deformation responses of soft materials and complex fluids, at the intersection between the physical science fields of solid and fluid mechanics, with an emphasis on polymer physics and rheology.

Honors and Awards

  • Two-Time Outstanding Undergraduate MSE Teacher Award, School of Materials Engineering, Purdue 2015-2016, 2016-2017
  • Recipient of the Provost’s Teaching for Tomorrow Award, Purdue University, 2015
  • Recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2015 (ENG-CMMI Division)
  • Named a 2014 “Distinguished Young Rheologist” by TA Instruments, 2014
  • Finalist for the Padden Symposium, APS March Meeting, 2011
  • National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Associateship, 2011
  • Jane G. Hines Named P.E.O. Scholar Award, 2009
  • Northwestern University Graduate Leader of the Year, 2009
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2006
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, 2006

Professional Societies

  • American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • American Concrete Institute (ACI), Commitee 236: Materials Science of Concrete
  • American Physical Society (APS), Division of Polymer Physics and Topical Group on Soft Matter
  • American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE)
  • Materials Research Society (MRS)
  • The Society of Rheology (SoR)


Prof. Erk completed her Ph.D. under the guidance of Prof. Ken Shull in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. Her thesis research was focused on understanding the processing and mechanics of self-assembled triblock copolymer solutions. Following her first exposure to the wide world of rheology in Prof. Wesley Burghardt’s graduate level course at Northwestern, she began using a rotational rheometer to specifically study the strain stiffening, sliding friction, and fracture behavior of these systems. After graduate school, Prof. Erk was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate in the Complex Fluids Group of the Polymer Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where she studied the interfacial rheology of surfactant-stabilized fluid droplets using microfluidic techniques under the guidance of Dr. Steven Hudson.  Now at Purdue, the overall goal of Prof. Erk’s research is to develop a better understanding of important structure-property-processing relationships in a wide range of soft materials and complex fluids with engineering relevance, from superabsorbent hydrogels used as internal curing agents in concrete to polymer-tethered nanoparticles used for roll-to-roll manufacturing of thin film nanocomposites. Characterizing the deformation and flow behavior of the materials is of primary interest, with an emphasis on understanding molecular-level phenomena. Model materials are synthesized in-house so that the molecular structure of the materials can be controlled and known a priori. Experimental capabilities consist of bulk and interfacial rheophysical instruments, in which the measured rheological properties of the material can be directly connected with the material’s macroscale behavior (such as the formation of flow instabilities) and its molecular-level chemical and physical structure.